FSC Opposes Effort to Censor Library Computers

FSC Opposes Effort to Censor Library Computers
Rhett Pardon

LOS ANGELES — The Free Speech Coalition has taken a stand on an effort to filter porn content on public library computers — citizens should see what they want to see and read what they want to read.

The FSC’s position on viewing porn at libraries comes at a time when several Los Angeles City Council members are proposing to tighten rules for those checking out erotica in the city’s 73 libraries’ computers.

Apparently, there have been reports of out-in-the-open porn viewing, public sex, drug use and theft at the libraries.

"Librarians and patrons should not have to tolerate lewd behavior or drug use in public, but limiting what people access online is anathema to free speech, and antithetical to the free flow of ideas," FSC executive director Eric Paul Leue told the L.A. Weekly today.

"Filtering software sounds like an easy solution, but we know that such software often casts an egregiously wide net, blocking not only sexually explicit content but also sexual health information, LGBTQ sites and sites like ours, which contains no sexual imagery whatsoever but discusses issues relevant to the adult industry."

The proposals by Los Angeles Councilman David Ryu and Councilwoman Nury Martinez seek to bump up security at the libraries while also censoring digital video and photography through filtering software. It is not the first time the topic has come up.

"Libraries are welcome to use privacy screens to block inadvertent viewing, but we're concerned about any motion that would arbitrarily limit access to particular sites or content," Leue told the Weekly.

"The councilmembers' motion wrongly suggests that 'pornography' is easily identifiable and clearly defined, rather than a shifting concept that depends on views of those policing it," he said. "In the past year alone, we've seen magazines like Cosmopolitan attacked as pornography in conservative districts, just as we've seen crackdowns on LGBTQ content and imagery, and mere nudity elsewhere.

"No one should be comfortable with state-funded employees determining what is or isn't acceptable for adults to read or research, or what ideas are or aren't detrimental to public health.

“Artists like Mapplethorpe, Larry Sultan and Jeff Koons certainly grace public library shelves, though they deal with the same explicit themes in the same manner," Leue said. "Censoring adult content may seem simple in practice, but history of libraries is crowded with literature, from ‘Fanny Hall’ to the Kinsey Report to ‘Heather Has Two Mommies,’ that was not long ago deemed obscene or harmful by censors."